“Mama,” said Sophia. It was the annual Halloween celebration at our office, and here I was playing balloons with my colleague’s baby daughter. She was beside the retired foosball table, pushing and pulling the different levers. Hah. I remember playing foosball when there was still a game room. Well, playing usually meant losing to the same girl from a different team, but it was still fun.
“Hi Sophia!” I happily called out to her. Dressed as Dora the Explorer, she was indeed on a quest of exploration, as she walked around the floor while her mother followed. Sophia would pick up a small balloon from the floor; we had lots of those as part of our decorations. She’d hold the pear-shaped balloon in her hand, and then throw it to the ground. She’d say “Mama!” and then she’d go and pick it up again.
I used to do this game with my nieces and nephew: whatever they did, I’d associate a sound effect. Whether it was the shrill sound of a firework about to blow, or the rumbling, booming sound of an explosion, I’d include sound effects to whatever action they’d make while they played. I guess it was effective, since they found it amusing, and giggle, laugh, or talk in that adorable baby talk adults like me have come to love. And so, whenever Sophia would throw a balloon, I’d go “Weeeoooowww… bgoooommm..” That last sound was for the ‘explosion‘ the balloon made as it touched the ground.
Now, when Sophia would pick up a different colored balloon, I’d tell her what color it was. Red.. Green.. Brown.. Yellow.. Every time she’d say “Mama!”, and then we’d play ‘throw the balloon’ again. I then taught her how to shoot the balloon like in basketball; I’d form my arms into a ring as she threw the balloon, and then whenever it went inside, I would clap my hands and yell out “Yeheey!” I repeated this until she got the routine, and was already urging me to form my arms into a circle. Smart kid.
Back in 2013, the design theme for our department was the animated film, The Lion King, so our whole area was converted into a jungle, the shadowy realm of the hyenas, and the wild plains of Africa. Due to lighting combinations, the savanna ended up being dark for the most part. It did work to our advantage though, for our team had set up caves that covered our side of the floor. There were two cave entrances, and on our side of the cave, there was a mini film showing of The Lion King, and Sophia would sometimes sit there and watch the movie, before running off to pick and throw balloons, and yes, shout out her favorite word. After a few more minutes of walking around our area, Sophia gave us a flying kiss, and waved us goodbye.
Designing the office area for Halloween takes a lot of time and effort; I’ve experienced this a couple of times already, ever since I started working in an office. But after all the hours spent decorating, or buying supplies, or planning the layout, or playing some costumed character, the best part for me is seeing the smiles on little children like Sophia. It’s seeing their eyes sparkle as they see this whole new environment. It’s almost infectious, as if suddenly you feel like you’ve been transported into a whole new dimension, where the cares of the corporate world have no power over you. And even thought it’s just for a few minutes, it’s like you’re a little kid again, on a journey of exploration like Sophia, and just enjoying the moment while it lasts.